[Edit: 4:02pm 12/16/09: This story has been confirmed by Nicole Possert, a representative of Friends Of the Southwest Museum. See the comments for her info on the subject. -LM]
After a hellacious history of back-and-forth between these two institutions–the struggling, in-need-of-repairs building by Angeleno pioneer Charles Fletcher Lummis that is the Southwest Museum Of the American Indian, and the larger, better-funded Autry National Center, adjacent to the LA Zoo–it looks like what many feared has come to pass. The Autry, which acquired the Southwest Museum & its collections several years ago, had made promises to the community to preserve & repair both the collection and the Southwest Museum itself. However, this just came across my desk:
“To Whom It May Concern,
I have been both a member and a volunteer/docent with the Southwest Museum since 1985. Last Saturday, 12/12/2009, the docents had their annual holiday gathering at the museum. John Gray made a surprise appearance, and announced to our group that the Southwest Museum site at Mt. Washington would be closing to the general public. The reason he gave was that they needed space for artifact restoration and conservation. He said that after 12/31/2009, the bookstore area will be closed and used to do work on the bead-work portion of the collection. Any public events now taking place at the museum will cease. Museum access will be given only to museum members…–for example, the monthly tours of the building. It was unclear whether the NELA art openings would be open to the public or members only (the next show is 1/23/2010). No public annoucement would be made regarding either the closing of the store or the site itself.
With this action, the Southwest Museum is now officially a storehouse and conservation site, nothing more. Mr. Gray stated that it would not open again for at least three years and perhaps longer pending need. He stated the future plan for the site was still to create a cultural center, exhibition space and education facilities. This was the plan that came out of the public meetings held in 2006 by the The Human Rights Commission of L.A. Since there is no contractual obligation to move forward with this plan after negotiations ended last fall with the city, the Autry’s word becomes its sole binding agreement for the future of the site. With the miscommunication and lack of transparency about the future of the Southwest Museum since the initial agreement was signed back in 2003, it is difficult to believe that the Autry will honor its previous agreement. This latest action shows clearly that the Autry’s long-term commitment to Southwest Museum is questionable and doubtful. The closing of the site to the general public is contary to both the wishes of the community at large and the L.A. City Council.
I can’t find any info anywhere else about this report. Can anyone confirm or deny?